By Caroline Waugh
At the age of 21, I was a caring young woman, and full of the joys of life. I was extremely physically fit, and worked full time as a Carer, in a psychiatric hospital. I loved my job, never had any time off sick, it was fab. In June 1988, I got German measles. What a ‘Pain’ that was!!!! I was ordered to not work, and to stay in isolation for a week. I had 5 days off, I’d had enough I was ok.
My shift that day was 7-3. When I drove home in my new car, (it was new to me!!) a Sahara Beige Mark 2 Escort 🙂 I had only passed my driving test 6 weeks previously!! No one knows what happened that day, some people say I fainted at the wheel?? Who knows I certainly don’t. I crossed over the road, and hit a double decker bus, 3 cars and a parking metre. Searing the top of my brain off, cracking umpteen ribs, puncturing my lungs. And the most life threatening, rupturing my Spleen which gave me a massive internal bleed. Some medics, have said I died???? But I don’t think so????
The next 6 months I was hospitalised, moving from Intensive Care to a general ward, and then a Young Disabled Unit. I was fed blackcurrant ice cubes to get the muscles in my face working and the Vicar from my parents’ church, used to visit me weekly. All the time this was happening, I lay unconscious, in a Coma for about 4 months. I would dream I was taking Holy Communion, and the wine was frozen into ice cubes. I was permanently plugged into the heart monitor which would dance whenever my long term boyfriend Jock entered the room!! Ex-husband now!! 😀
I was discharged from hospital, got engaged and started out patients therapy with Sheffield Community Brain Injury Rehab Team where I am still involved now in a Co-production research group. I learnt the skills I needed to live. Years passed, and we had 2 lovely children, Daisy now aged 17 and Finn now aged 13. The residual effects of my brain damage were left sided weakness, epilepsy, hyper sensitivity, impaired vision and no auto immunity.
At the age of 39, my life fell apart my husband left me and the kids then aged 6 and 2. He drove off in my mobility car so I had to get my kids to school and nursery. I had no choice but to get an electric mobility scooter. It was horrid at the time!!!
Years passed, and I put on weight, and my kids had learnt to cycle. I wanted to cycle with them!! So I phoned Disability Sheffield (remember the name!!) and asked if they knew where I could borrow a Tricycle. They gave me Steve Marsden from national cycling charity CTC. This man has changed my life forever!!
Steve visited my house, came on the School run with me. Me on my electric scooter, and him following on his push bike. It’s about a mile uphill, we got back to mine and he said ‘Yes you’ll do fine” but I did find it tough. So I began a 12 week course with non-disabled people, who met once a week, them on their 2 wheeled bicycles and me on a ‘Sit up and Beg’ tricycle. I met some of the best folk I’ve ever met when I began my cycling journey and they are still dear friends now. Including Dave Brenen, who cycled the Sky Ride with me, and is pictured.
The course finished, and the next one was in another park, at the other side of the city the Beloved Hillsborough Park which is now home to Sheffield Cycling 4 All wwwsheffieldcycling4all.org. In order to get there I became a Health Champion, encouraging people of all abilities to cycle. I became infamous 🙂 for my Blog ‘Doesn’t Sweat Much for a fat lass‘ (which is a lie, because I sweat buckets.) Meanwhile the CTC had bought me a Recumbent Trike, and Steve had taken me around the country to find it, eventually from West Country Recumbent, who are still very supportive of me now, 6 years later. I bought one using my divorce money and some from the CTC. By now I was doing the school run twice a day, which meant my visits to the GP, went from once a month to once in 2 and a half years – they sent for me, because they missed me!
In 2010, I won Pride of Yorkshire, and spent the night in London at a spectacular award ceremony with Miriam Densham.
In 2011, I helped run a new group in the park, known as Cycling 4 All, along with my Hero Steve Marsden, Fred, and Nick, and later Graeme.
I loved it, and I still get a buzz seeing people who find walking difficult, cycling off on one of our adapted cycles.
In 2012 I carried the Olympic Torch, and was invited to the Paralympics with Steve, by Nick Clegg, to see the Cycling.
In 2014 I broke my Tibia and Fibula, (getting out of a car) and I won a Service to Sport award, after being nominated by the lovely Liz Howard who I’d worked with on the Self Directed Support training team in Sheffield.
Meanwhile funding for Cycling 4 All, had ceased. New people were involved, including Emily from Disability Sheffield (I told you that name would crop up again) Sue and David Watts, a Cyclist and his wife/carer, James Unwin, Andy, Jamie, Gavin and Steve. Gavin was replaced by Stuart (web designer and a cycling 4 All enthusiast). We changed our name to Sheffield Cycling 4 All and started charging £5 per bike to cover the costs.
In 2015 4 days after being discharged from Orthopaedics I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I kept cycling for as long as possible but the last 3 months of treatment were just too hard. But I did take part in the Sheffield Sky Ride, the day after my 2nd Chemotherapy Session.
Now I’m a 100% clear of cancer, but surgery has left me with Lymphedema in my Right Arm. (typical) but at least I live to ride my bike another day.
My Cancer treatment had made me weak, and caused me to lead a very sedentary life. My lymphedema hurt pretty much all the time. But it wasn’t the worst outcome of me not getting my exercise. The first time, (and should have been a massive warning) I got a thrombosis, in my right arm and was admitted to hospital via ambulance in the daytime. Heaven knows the cost of that to the health service!! The second time was much more frightening. I had a pulmonary embolism I struggled to breath, but made it to bed at midnight, I was gasping very loudly!!! My children aged 12 and 16, insisted that I call an ambulance. I was rushed in blue lights flashing, gasping for breath into hospital and the resuscitation room!! I stayed in hospital, for 3 nights, having to be dressed, and washed and discharged with a prescription for 2 injections a day.
Despite me asking repeatedly asking to use my personal budget to have my trike upgraded with a Pedal Assist Motor, so that I could continue my daily exercise and continue being an ambassador for Sheffield Cycling 4, All Sheffield Social Services refused. I believe strongly that if I were able to get back on my trike, not only would I be feeling the health benefits of being active (which I believe are a necessity for me, not a ‘nice to have’) but I would also able to get out and about more independently (I currently have to pay a PA to take me out and about). I am eligible for a personal budget which would pay for the new Pedal Assist Motor and would meet the outcomes I agreed with my social worker in my support plan and still to this date, my Social Workers manager, will not sanction keeping my pedal trike on the road. My personal budget has been restricted, taking away my choice and control. But I will keep trying and will let you know how I get on.
Caroline and her team run cycling sessions at Hillsborough Park in Sheffield from April to October. Please visit the Sheffield Cycling 4 All website and the Facebook page to find out about the sessions.
Follow Caroline’s blog ‘Doesn’t Sweat Much for a fat lass‘